(photo by Cedric Arnold)

Michael Sakamoto is an interdisciplinary artist, scholar, curator, and arts manager active in dance, theatre, performance, media and photography. His solo, ensemble and visual works have been presented in 14 countries throughout Asia, Europe and North America.

Recent touring works include “Soil,” a dance theater trio with performers from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam/USA, and “Flash,” a butoh/hip-hop duet with Rennie Harris. Michael is currently developing “MuNK,” an autobiographical photo essay inspired by postcolonial and diasporic identity among Japanese Americans and butoh dancers, and “blind spot,” an intermedia performance and book project integrating discourses around the body, media imagery and intellectual property.

Michael’s research and performance interests include contemporary imaginings of the butoh-based “body in crisis,” corporeal and mediated embodiments of self-reflection and social resistance, and performing the cultural commons and cultural sustainability.

From 1994-2000, he was also a featured soloist in the Rachel Rosenthal Company.

Michael holds an MFA in Dance and PhD in Culture and Performance from UCLA. He is former Co-Director of Goddard College’s MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts Program and former Assistant Professor in Dance at the University of Iowa.

Michael is also a longtime arts administrator and consultant. From 2000-2007, he was Program Coordinator at 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, CA, one of the leading international artist residency centers worldwide. Michael has consulted on arts management and grant programs for numerous institutions, including the New England Foundation for the Arts, Japanese-American Cultural and Community Center, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Durfee Foundation, Los Angeles City Cultural Affairs Department, and others.

Michael currently serves as Associate Director of Programming/Asian Arts and Culture for the Fine Arts Center at University of Massachusetts Amherst.

artist statement

“I attempt to address the subconscious through mysterious, iconic, and emotional imagery, often via fictional characters contextualized within history, culture and language. I’m attracted to passionate discourse and surreal experience, lying between mythically pop, collagist subversion and haunting dreamscapes. I create structures common in Western contemporary performance and dance theater and filter them through a semi-improvisational movement practice.

Working in exhibition and public spaces, my interdisciplinary works attempt to subvert common notions of authenticity, knowledge and culture via fictionalized environments and visceral imagery. For two decades, I have created numerous works in performance and visual art that revel in and question many of our deeply-held beliefs based in pop culture and media, such as cinema, television, music and advertising, peering into the “soul” of given socio-cultural constructs.

My work is also dedicated to fostering intercultural dialogue. I have created over a dozen performances caught in an absurdist, dialectic purgatory between East and West.”

selected past performance venues

Vancouver International Dance Festival
Painted Bride Arts Center
Bangkok International Butoh Festival
Institute for Studies in the Arts, Arizona State University
San Francisco International Butoh Festival
Florida Dance Festival (Miami)
San Francisco Asian Art Museum
UCLA Fowler Museum
Brown University (Providence)
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Chiang Mai University Art Center (Thailand)
Rai Mae Fah Luang Foundation (Thailand)
Church Music Festival of Kristiansand (Norway)
Philadelphia Fringe Festival (curated)
Muestra Ex-Teresa Arte Alternativo (Mexico City, Mexico)
Theatre of Yugen/Noh Space (San Francisco)
Santa Fe International Film Festival
Audio Art Festival (Krakow, Poland)
Roulette/Location One (New York)
Track 16 (Santa Monica)
UC Riverside
Highways Performance Space (Santa Monica)
Los Angeles Theatre Center
CAMAC (Marnay-sur-Seine, France)
University of Wisconsin-Madison
University of British Columbia

past exhibition venues

RMA Institute, Bangkok, Thailand
Chinese-American Museum, Los Angeles
18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica
Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles
Arizona State University, Tempe
The Space Bangkok, Thailand
Crazy Space, Santa Monica

grants / awards

New England Foundation for the Arts – National Dance Project Production and Touring Grant
Center for Cultural Innovation – Investing in Artists Grant
Meet the Composer – Commissioning Music USA
The James Irvine Foundation/DanceUSA – California Dancemaker Grant
California Community Foundation – Visual Arts Fellowship
Asian Cultural Council – Religion and Humanities Fellowship
UC Institute for Research in the Arts – Collaboration Grant
Pacific Rim Research Program
Durfee Foundation – ARC Grant (2x)
Japan Foundation – Arts and Cultures Award
Los Angeles City Cultural Affairs Department – Artist-in-Residence (2x)


Institute for Studies in the Arts, Arizona State University
Djerassi Resident Artists Foundation
Centre d’art Marnay art center (CAMAC), France
Watts Towers Arts Center
Los Angeles Theatre Center
Dance Department, Arizona State University

selected guest performance

“Woyzeck” – Robert Wilson
“Grand/Hope/Flower” – Rosanna Gamson
“Concrete Daisies” – Carol Kim

past guest lecturer/artist

California Institute of the Arts – Music Department
UC Irvine – Drama Department
UC Irvine – Studio Art Department
UC Riverside – Dance Department
UC San Diego – Dance Department
UCLA – Theater Department
UCLA – World Arts and Cultures Department
university of Redlands – Johnston Center for Integrative Studies
Arizona State University – Institute for Studies in the Arts
Santa Monica College – Dance Department

selected past conferences

National Performance Network Annual Meeting
Performance Studies International Conference
Dance Studies Association International Conference
Society for Dance History Scholars Conference
Congress on Research in Dance Conference
Across the Threshold: Creativity, Being, and Healing Conference (Duke University)
Association of Theatre in Higher Education Conference
ILAC Conference (Rajabhat Suan Dusit University, Bangkok, Thailand)